Saturday, January 9, 2016

Gygax - Critical Hits


Formed out of the ashes of the excellent Gypsyhawk by Eric Harris, vocals & bass guitar, who quickly drafted Bryant Throckmorton, guitar, from his former troupe. Solidifying the lineup with Armand John Lizzy, guitar & vocals, and Justin Dempsey, drums, the band has hit the ground running having recorded a beast of a debut that I already feel is a contender for a Top 10 spot in 2016. Might be sticking out my chin on that! 'Critical Hits' is musically born out of the music I grew up on which is burned into my DNA. Therefore, as the boogie-grooving tones emanates from the speakers with huge equal measures of Thin Lizzy and Deep Purple, yours truly is lost to this world. What's even better, is the fact that the band are using their influences very wisely. And blended as well as it is with their own ideas, a great brand new take of the fantastic heavy rock of the 70's has been born.

Lyrically, the band draws their inspiration from the world of fantasy, especially Dungeons & Dragons, hence the band name. Since I never played that game, and have read very little fantasy literature, I really have no reference points. But that doesn’t matter one bit because Gygax throws down the gauntlet, drawing up amazing images I’ve barely been exposed to before. Only the mighty The Gates Of Slumber are able to do that, which makes these guys even more special.

‘Critical Hits’ is one of those rare albums that has me hooked from the opening bar all the way to the end. Each song is pure class, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for world dominance. And each spin brings out more elaborate parts played with such ease that I can only shake my head at this wonder. This is best epitomized in ‘World Breaker’, ‘Draw Breath’, ‘Chain Lightning’ and ‘The Hunter’s Heart’. Note for note and word by word, the whirlpool of Thin Lizzy’s dual guitar harmonizing, the drive of Deep Purple, the boogie rocking, the hunger and total fearlessness of Gygax and the fantasy-colored themes, comes to the fore perfectly within this quartet of songs. Occasionally the band is aided by the eminent Gary Goff on keyboards/organ which makes everything rumble and shake even more.

I can’t stress what an extremely nice surprise and acquaintance these Californians are. In a world of music where just everything has been said and done a million times over, Gygax shine like a supernova. They don’t apologize the inclusion of their influences one single bit, while, at the same time, writing damned great songs full of grit, balls and determination. This combination has, like I said in the beginning, forged a whole new path for the best style of heavy rock there is.

When I received ‘Critical Hits’ I didn’t know Gypsyhawk was no more, which saddened me because I really liked them. However, Gygax has remedied this loss and then some. In my opinion, in these days when everybody is trying to outdo each other with forced quirkiness and calculated approach to their music, this band just play what the hell they want to, with great musical prowess and no care in the world what people think. And that’s how music should be performed. What else is there to say? Get your hands on a copy of ‘Critical Hits’, you’d be a fool to ignore Gygax.


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